2020 through 2022 were terrible years for travel. Everywhere, everyone was stuck at home. Stay home, stay safe, look after yourselves. Now, that doesn’t mean we should be sitting inside, staring out the window in misery. No, we’d all end up ’round the bend, and no one could visit us in our rubber rooms!
Well now it’s 2023, and things look a little brighter. I hope… Therefore lockdowns are no longer an excuse for not getting outside. Needless to say, we need the outdoors, maybe more than ever. Fresh air and sunshine are the perfect remedies to the quarantine blues. Get out and explore your town and local parks.
I live in Ladysmith, a small town on the eastern side of Vancouver Island, straddling the 49th Parallel. Here we are blessed with mild weather, calm seas, and plenty of outdoor activities. Just like so many other towns on Vancouver Island, Ladysmith caters to the outdoor lover. And you’ll find some great hiking trails in Ladysmith to keep your feet busy.
The Best Trail System Around
I’ve hiked and backpacked in some beautiful places in this world, including the Grand Canyon, Death Valley and Joshua Tree National Park in Southern California. But I can step out my door and walk a short three blocks and find myself on one of the best trail systems around. That’s true for almost anyone who lives in Ladysmith. Sandwiched between the ocean and mountains, the town of Ladysmith provides access to everything from the easiest family friendly walks, to challenging, heart pounding leg-burners. Even the Trans Canada Trail, recently renamed the Great Trail, passes through Ladysmith.
This list of great hiking trails in Ladysmith is by no means complete. I could spend days describing all the trails and walks around Ladysmith! Instead I’m providing you with some of my personal favorites. But if you’re visiting from somewhere else, I encourage you to speak to a local resident and get their perspective. Everyone has their favorite trail, and for different reasons. There are also some great trail apps that provide good user-generated feedback on trails. I use AllTrails. The website links to everything on the app as well. And the app works on Apple and Android.
1. The Estuary Trail
This easy 10-15 minute stroll is perfect for families with small children. The path follows along the shoreline, providing views of Ladysmith Harbor and the Gulf Islands.
Introduce your kids to some of the fascinating marine life in the tide pools. During low tide you can walk all the way to Transfer Beach Park, but be prepared to get a little mud between your toes. For kids, this is one of the best hiking trails in Ladysmith.
Access to the Estuary Trail is off a small parking area on Roland Road, just across the Trans Canada Highway from the Save On Foods and Coronation Mall.
2. Marine Walk
Even on a hot summer day, there’s always a pleasant, cool hike in Ladysmith. The Marine Walk is just the ticket. Shady and sheltered, this is a nice family walk that follows an old railway bed for a portion, and provides views of the harbor and marinas.
Just under a kilometer (.6 miles) in length, the Marine Walk begins at the edge of Transfer Beach Park and ends next to the Government Wharf. Roughly halfway, the path passes the Ladysmith Maritime Society marina. This is a nice spot for walking on the docks and checking out some of the boats. During the summer, grab a seat on the deck of the Oyster Bay Cafe and enjoy a snack or light lunch. The trail also connects up with the Great Trail, Canada’s epic coast to coast to coast trail system.
Free parking is available at Transfer Beach Park. Washrooms can be found at Transfer Beach and the Government Wharf.
3. Holland Creek Trail
My favorite is the Holland Creek Trail in Ladysmith. Not just because it’s minutes from my home, this trail has something for everyone. Portions of the trail are suitable for assisted wheelchairs and strollers, there are secluded swimming holes and waterfalls, viewpoints and wildlife. Heart pumping or leisurely stroll, Holland Creek Trail has it all.
The trail follows both sides of the picturesque Holland Creek for about 4 miles. From several access points, hikers follow the easy town side of the creek up or downstream. Once the path crosses the footbridge at the west end of the trail, the path returns along the opposite side of the creek and the trail becomes a little more challenging. Holland Creek drops a few hundred feet and the trail follows it down. Here you’ll access Crystal Falls, a verdant grotto of steep rocks that echo the rushing water. Enjoy a picnic lunch in this perfect spot.
Either side of the Holland Creek Trail takes you all the way to the ocean, linking up with the Estuary Trail. If you hike the entire loop, you will spend 1 1/2 to 2 hours on the trail. Trail access and parking is found at Dogwood Drive, the junction of 6th Avenue and Methuen Street, Davis Road Park or Mackie Road. Download a map of the area from this link. This PDF published by the town is an excellent resource for getting outside in Ladysmith.
4. Rotary Lookout Trail
Look up the mountainside behind Ladysmith and you’ll see a carpet of coniferous trees. From down in town you can’t tell there is a web of great trails taking you to stunning views. One of those trails is the Rotary Lookout Trail.
This short, 1.2 kilometer trail is accessed from the bridge over Holland Creek on the Holland Creek Trail, or from a trailhead at the end of Malone Road. From either end, the trail climbs a short distance to a lookout above town, offering stunning views of Ladysmith, the harbor, distant Gulf Islands, and on clear days, Mount Baker in Washington State.
The viewpoint has a picnic table for enjoying your lunch while you take in the lovely views. Please remember to pack everything out when you go. There are no trash cans on the trail!
From the Rotary Lookout Trail there are lots of trails that head off up into the mountains. Some are dead ends, petering out into the bush, while others connect with old logging roads. If someone felt really ambitious, and was well-equipped, they could hike from here all the way across to Lake Cowichan, near the middle of Vancouver Island! I do not endorse this idea! But hey, if you’re feeling energetic and adventurous, drop me a comment below when you get back. I’d love to hear how it went.
This short list of hiking trails in Ladysmith is by no means complete. There are more than 70 kilometers of mapped trails in and around the town of Ladysmith. Many are multi-use and accessible directly from local roads. I’ll be posting more Ladysmith trail guides in future posts, so be sure to check back. Better yet, subscribe to my newsletter and be among the first to know when new posts are published.
Have you a favorite trail you’ve hiked in Ladysmith? Let me know about it in the comments below.